Hungarian national eleven will face Greece, Romania, Finland, Northern Ireland and Faroe Islands in the qualification for the 2016 European Championship. The opponents are not the strongest ones and the new system of the tournament enables more teams to be qualified for the games.
The draw ceremony was held in Nice, France on 23rd of February. The teams were divided into pots, as usual, placing the best teams into the first pot and so on.
Thanks to some relatively good results in the previous years, Hungary was placed into the second pot, which meant that it will avoid some of the more challenging opponents, such as Ukraine, Sweden or Belgium.
The new system of the European Championship will also boost Hungary’s chance of qualification: in 2016, 24 teams will prove themselves against each other instead of the previous 16. This way both the group winners and the runner ups will instantly qualify themselves, as well as the best third placed. The eight best third-placed will have to play additional two legged matches in the play-off in order to qualify themselves.
The first opponent of Hungary will be Greece, which is one of the weakest teams from the first pot according to FIFA ratings. Beside their surprise win at Euro 2004 in Portugal, Greece did not showed much in the following tournaments. They did not qualify for the 2006 World Cup, left Euro 2008 without any wins, then finished third in the group at the 2010 World Cup. At Euro 2012, they advanced from their group but Germany defeated them in the quarter finals. Greece will be at the Brazilian World Cup by having defeated Romania in the play-off.
10 Greek players play in the top European leagues (England, Spain, Germany, France, Italy), 12 in good leagues (Belgium, Netherlands, Greek and so on).
The neighbor country and arch-rival Romania interestingly came from the third pot, despite their better position and win against Hungary in the 2014 World Cup qualifications. Matches against Romania are always passionate, but hopefully there will be no scandals. The last time Romania was present on a continental tournament was in 2008, where they finished third in the group stage behind Italy and the Netherlands, however, ahead of France. The national team has 10 players from top leagues, and a few other from good leagues.
The third opponent, Finland is also familiar from previous qualifications. Hungary’s win against Finland in 2011 was a great success. Although Finland have never qualified for any big tournament, it is a team to be aware of. Although there are only one player from the top leagues, they have 10 players from good lower leagues. Finland is usually tough and hard to defeat.
Northern Ireland came from the fifth pot, which suggests that they are almost the weakest side in the group. However, there are 6 top league player (Jonny Evans plays for Manchester United, for example) and 17 players from other good leagues. The last time Northern Ireland was qualified to a big tournament was in the 1986 World Cup, just like Hungary.
Without argument, the easiest opponent is Faroe Islands’ national eleven. They have never been qualified to any major tournaments and usually are the last team in their group. However, Faroe Islands managed many time to achieve surprise results like a win over Estonia or a draw against Northern Ireland.
Finally let’s take a look at Hungary’s national team. The last tournament which they qualified was the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. Since then, there was no success. In the last qualification stage, the hope was alive for quite a long time, but the catastrophic 3-0 away defeat against Romania took the team’s fate out of its hand. Eventually Romania finished as runner up, and although the third place was the best result for Hungary in decades, a real success. Nevertheless, coach Sándor Egervári had to go, and was replaced By Attila Pintér.
With a new coach in a slightly weak group and with higher number of teams at Euro 2016, Hungary has a chance to finally be at a continental tournament. Even though the improved odds odds are not the result of a sudden change in Hungarian national team’s attitude and strength, it is a chance which should the national eleven grasp.
Written by Oliver Tamasi
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